Intimacy, stability, and support are all possible in a healthy romantic relationship—especially in trying times.

Positive relationships can improve your mental and physical health, but frustrating relationships can also be a source of stress, according to research.

Arguments are a common occurrence, so occasionally getting into one doesn’t indicate that your relationship is “bad.” In fact, couples’ communication skills can actually improve when they can disagree in constructive ways.

Research in 2018 Source supports that folks who are able to openly communicate with their partner about what stresses them out can help them actively manage relationship stress during tense discussions.

According to research published in 2018 Source, people who can honestly share with their spouse what worries them can actively manage relationship stress during difficult conversations.

How does stress affect my relationship?

“Every relationship is going to have arguments. At worst, disagreements can lead to damaged feelings, a loss of respect for the other party, or the dissolution of a close relationship, according to Debbie Opoku, a Canadian licensed psychotherapist with expertise in marriage and couples therapy, who practices in Barrie.

“Our words will come out as accusations — or worse as a personal attack against your partner — if we speak and react in the heat of the moment,” claims Opoku.

Words carry a lot of weight in an argument, and saying something in anger (even if it feels justified at the time) can still have lasting effects long after the argument has concluded — and these impacts can contribute to even more stress down the road.

And at-home stress doesn’t only involve your partner.

Tips for dealing with relationship stress

It’s simple to allow parenting demands to build, financial stress to fester, or regress into old arguing patterns when you’re both confined to small spaces.

Setting aside time to walk outside your home will help you both feel like you’ve escaped the norm and help you break out of routines.

Change the scenery and take a break

Houston, Texas-based licensed clinical social worker and psychotherapist Nicholas Hardy advises couples to “walk around outside and discuss their issues.” “You are not required to stare at each other directly, in addition to being outside and taking advantage of the weather, if it’s nice).”

According to Hardy, “it relieves pressure from the conversation, which sometimes allows people to be more open.”

You may feel as though you aren’t making progress toward an agreement if you remain still during a disagreement.Try to put the heat of the argument on pause, take a break, and revisit things after you’ve cleared your head.

When “you” causes trouble, try to use “I” instead

Although it may seem like a straightforward word choice, if you use “you” and superlative statements too frequently during a disagreement, it can prolong the fight and cause your partner more stress.

“I” language is more commonly accepted than “you” language, which is perceived as accusatory and may provoke defensiveness,” says Jennifer Henry, a licensed professional counselor and the director of Maryville University’s Counseling Center in Missouri.

Henry explains that saying something like, “I feel really disappointed and unimportant when I’m planning on a date night and you end up canceling it,” as opposed to, “Every time we make plans for a date, you end up bailing at the last minute,” taps into how the situation makes you feel.

Find out how you can help or ask for assistance.

Asking for assistance is one of the hardest things to do when you’re stressed.

Sometimes you might be in a situation so stressful that you don’t even know what kind of help you need, or you might feel too overwhelmed to ask for it. It’s highly likely that your partner has experienced similar feelings if you have.

The best course of action is to ask them what kind of assistance they need after taking a deep breath.For example, a pile of dirty dishes may not normally be a big deal to your partner, but if they feel stretched to the limit already, that pile of dishes is going to look impossibly large.

“You can simply ‘ask’ your partner about their stress and how you can support them in responding to it. Assumptions increase our chances of missing the mark, according to Hardy. “I would recommend taking something off their plate… When you give them less to worry about in other areas, you are supporting them inadvertently.”

Rather than organizing your defense, listen to them.

There are moments when an argument takes on the feel of a competition in which the object is to outscore your opponent. Winning the fight might feel good, but it doesn’t help your partner or the circumstance get any easier.

Try to listen to them if they’re sharing their worries with you, even if it’s not in a composed or helpful manner. Even if you disagree with them, giving them the space and time to be heard will help you respect their viewpoint.

Here are some tips on how to become an even more proficient active listener.

“Pay attention to one another,” says Opoku. “The likelihood is that the other person will be more receptive to our arguments if we listen to them and give them a chance to clarify their viewpoint. Our typical reaction when someone says something we disagree with is to begin formulating a counter argument while they are still speaking.

Consider the root of their stress

It would be reasonable to assume that you or something you did upset your partner if you are having a disagreement with them. Even though you might be the target of the argument, it might not actually be about you.

Your partner’s elevated stress levels could be attributed to outside influences in their lives.

Consider what might be the true source of your partner’s stress and try to address it as you work to resolve the issue.

“We carry this into our relationships when we are stressed about work, family, etcetera,” claims Hardy. Our emotional capacity to handle situations appropriately isn’t always present, and our patience is diminished. As a result, I advise couples to take some time for self-care, rejuvenation, and self-evaluation to determine whether one partner is suffering from other issues.

By assisting your spouse in lessening the outside pressures in their lives, you may be able to prevent future arguments of this nature and demonstrate your empathy and support for them.

There are always couples therapists on call to assist.

It might be too challenging for you to handle your relationship fully on your own, even after you’ve made a major effort to de-stress it.

You might think about couples counseling to help enhance your relationship, communication, and stress management, particularly if there is a deep hurt or long-term stress.

“It can be incredibly eye-opening and can lead to so much growth and healing to have an objective party sit with you and help you talk through your challenges,” Henry says.

Henry continues, “A counselor can offer you and your partner fresh strategies for resolving your issues as well as support you both in truly expressing your emotions and feeling heard.”

Need a place to start? You can check out our list of the best online relationship therapy services.

Looking ahead

When you take steps toward improving your relationship and de-stressing, you’re proving to yourself and your partner that you believe there’s something special worth working at.

You’ll be shocked at the amount of progress you two can achieve when you both pledge to support one another.

According to Henry, “many [relationships] can be healed and recover from prolonged stress if both partners truly want to save their, have the humility to work on themselves, and have the commitment to work hard on growing their relationship.”